Welcoming Activist-In-Residence Braema Mathi

Miss Braema Mathi (Mathiaparanam) is a consultant on corporate communications, organisational development strategies for the non-profit sector, and in advocacy and research. She is hoping to pick up on writing again! She has been an advocate for social justice and will continue to work with young adults, on advocating on specific issues that they are interested in.
This interest in social justice has led her to become involved in issues related to women, migrants and HIV. She has led AWARE, founded and led Transient Workers Count Too, was the Vice-President of Action for Aids, and also founded and led MARUAH (Singapore Working Group for ASEAN Human Rights Mechanism). She is also the Singapore focal Point for MARUAH in ASEAN and also on the Southeast Women’s Caucus. She was also the Regional President (Southeast Asia and Pacific) of the International Council of Social Welfare and AWARE‘s first Director of Research and Advocacy.
Ms Mathi has worked as: a teacher in an all boys’ school; a journalist for The Straits Times; a researcher with the Institute of South East Asian Studies (ISEAS); the head of the Communications department in a hospital; a Director of Programmes, and later Director of Advocacy, Research and Communications at ASEAN CSR Network. She is now a consultant on social issues, communication strategies and on organisational matters. She was also a Nominated Member of Parliament.
Her areas of expertise include advocacy strategies, communications toolkits, partnering the media, and advocating well on the changes needed to improve the workplace, the issues one is working on to effect change for better outcomes, using relevant tools in the spectrum of communications and advocacy tools.
She has published book chapters, articles and also written reports to and for organisations that include think-tanks in Southeast Asia and to the United Nations.

The Role of Indigenous Rights In Rainforest Preservation, Two Perspectives: Presented by Joe Lamb and Dr Jose Fragoso

WHY YOU NEED TO ATTEND: Indigenous groups in Sarawak, Malaysia, when faced with a large-scale development project that would displace thousands of people, and destroy large swathes of rainforest, launched a successful campaign to stop the construction of the Baram Dam. Learn how the land’s natives worked together with researchers from the University of California to propose alternative sources of energy that would be less costly, less fragile, and more efficient. The collaboration remains an example of how research can not only redefine the foundations of development that respects both human rights and the environment, but also amplify the voices of communities.

Date: 6 November 2017
Time: 4:00 PM – 6:00 PM
Venue: Research Division Seminar Room, Block AS7, #06-42, Shaw Foundation Building

Register Online

Call For Papers: Theorizing Communication from the South

Call for Papers: Communication Theory Special Issue

Theorizing Communication from the South

Guest Editors:
Mohan J. Dutta, National University of Singapore
Mahuya Pal, University of South Florida

In this special issue, we take forward emerging calls for decolonizing communication to explore communication theories anchored in the cartographies of the Global South. We encourage submissions that question assumptions regarding internationalization, de-Westernization, and globalization, along with other key concepts, and that consider new directions for approaches to theorizing communication. Submissions should engage with questions concerning the production of knowledge, the role of communication in global relations, and the potential for communication to contribute to advancing imaginaries of the Global South.

More information at: NUS Communications and New Media’s Official Blog

Malay Heart Health

A Straits Times article highlighted that Singaporean Malays faced a higher risk of heart conditions. The Malay Heart Health project was thus established to develop a community-centric heart health intervention. Solidly grounded in Culture-Centred Approach’s (CCA) communicative principles of participation and dialogue, the initiative was funded by the Singapore Heart Foundation. Proceeding from the central CCA tenet that communities are in the best position to identify their problems and the concomitant solutions rooted in cultural meanings of health, the team conducted:

  • 60 in-depth interviews with community members
  • 50 hours of participant observations
  • 12 advisory board meetings
  • 6 focus group sessions.

The team sought to co-create entry points for understanding the meanings of heart health and co-develop community-grounded heart health interventions built on local cultural logics of daily life.

The findings pointed to a few key factors that made it ripe for a culture-centric intervention. One key finding revealed that taste was a significant anchor to social interactions and food practices in Malay life in Singapore. Many participants were not receptive to healthier Malay cuisine because it lacked strong flavours, which enhanced the joys of everyday social interaction. Healthy eating therefore carries culturally-specific meanings in this context, which provided the basis for working with them, rather than stigmatising them.


Another important finding was that social events such as wedding receptions, gatherings, baby showers and of course, Hari Raya festivities, have significant bearing on the participants’ ability to control what they ate. Owing to a culture of eating together, participants reported hesitation in declining to eat more when asked to join by others, despite being full themselves . The sociality of food highlighted the importance of developing culturally-centered interventions that draw on food practices as relational practices embedded in community life.

Participants’ voices pointed to a large information gap about chronic diseases, resources of prevention, and strategies for coping with cardiovascular disease. Particularly salient was the absence of culturally rooted and culturally meaningful health information that addressed the heart health needs of the Malay community.

The Intervention:

The first phase of the intervention was  a collaboration with Jurong Green MAEC, a branch within Jurong Green Community Centre. The second phase, demonstrative of the CCA’s ability to utilise alternative community infrastructures,  comprised of collaboration with community members from Chai Chee rental blocks.

The collaboration with Jurong Green MAEC saw 12 advisory board meetings with 14 members who linked diet and stress as contributors of cardiovascular diseases. The strategies of prevention include introducing healthier Malay cuisines without altering the taste that they were used to, community-driven group activities of learning about food and Malay culture, financial management seminars to help the lower income community members manage their budget better, outings for families to relieve stress, health screening, and exercise activities.

These were manifested in the campaign Gaya Hidup Sihat Sepanjang Hayat or “Healthy Lifestyle for Life” which was carried out over a span  of 2 months and was launched through  a community event with  celebrities like Sufi Rashid, Khairudin Samsudin and Suria Mohd who shared  tips on preparing easy healthy recipes.  To encourage bonding with their family, the advisory board members visited Bollywood Veggies where 120 of them got a personalised tour around the farm and shared insights about the vegetables they could use in their daily cooking. Again, to reduce stress and encourage families to come together, they organised an outdoor Zumba activity in the void deck of a nearby HDB block.

In the second phase, 12 advisory board members from Chai Chee rental blocks began a focus group, after which they collaborated with Sunlove Senior Citizen Centre (SCC) to ensure that the activities they came up with reached a wider audience. Once again, the advisory board members identified several issues they thought should be addressed in their community, including an emphasis on a healthier diet, education on cardiovascular diseases and smoking, and community-grounded group activities centered on heart health.

With many low-income families in the community, the group wanted recipes that they could easily and affordably make and adapt to their needs. Using healthy Malay cuisine recipes, Healthy Cooking Wednesday at the SCC was launched. These recipes were compiled with the assistance of Khoo Teck Phuat Hospital, tested  by the community members and later distributed to the senior citizens through recipe cards in Malay featuring recipes from community members and tips on keeping the food healthy.

Community members also designed culturally relevant posters and brochures to create awareness about signs of heart attack and stroke, and the dangers of smoking, especially while pregnant. These posters were put up at lifts, at the SCC and Residents’ Committees centres; while the brochures and recipe cards were distributed by the advisory group members at the launch of the campaign. The campaign launch witnessed the members cooking for the guests followed by a short explanation of the brochures with a dance-off to wind down the event.

The CCA principle of placing the community as the locus of decision making resulted in the community members taking ownership of this project with a deep interest in sustaining it. Consequently, Healthy Cooking Wednesday continues to this day.

As Professor Dutta shares:

The voices of community members form the soul and spirit of this campaign, generating a positive dialogic space for celebrating heart healthy behaviors and beliefs in the community. What is powerful about this advisory board and the work of community members is their ability to identify cultural resources of healing from within the community, connecting back to cultural traditions, and cultural meanings, and demonstrating the importance of community participation in dialogues for health and well-being.

ICA Bluesky Workshop: Discussion Group on Culture-Centred Collaborations With Disenfranchised Communities

Many communicative interventions are exceedingly top-down wherein organisations already have a standard formula of intervention to achieve desired outcomes. Often, these interventions are intrusive to a community’s culture and does nothing more than provide temporary solace, if at all.

The ICA Bluesky Workshop is all about community-driven interventions that put community members and their needs front and centre. The workshop attempts to answer two important questions:

  • What does it mean when a community and their culture is in direct dialogue with the intervention that is supposed to transform their lives?
  • What does a culture-centred intervention look like?

We invite scholars, activists and practitioners who are involved in similar projects to have a fruitful and learning workshop with us on 26 May, 15:30 – 16:45, at Hilton San Diego Bayfront.

Exhibition opening and panel discussion

By Chow and Lin
Exhibition opening: Tuesday 25 April 2017, 7pm – 9.30pm
Open to public: Wednesday 26 April to 14 May 2017

Panel discussion: Thursday 27 April 2017, 7.30pm
Register for the discussion here: http://equivalence.peatix.com/

Admission to the exhibition and panel discussion is free.

Equivalence is a systematic empirical investigation of observable phenomena via statistical, mathematical or computational techniques to address global issues of our time.

The Equivalence – Cans series delves into the state of the economy, social inequality and consumption patterns. It confronts us on how we view everyday life, often with our own set of tinted glasses, perhaps obscured by our world view determined by where we stand on the society strata.


About the Panel Discussion: 

This panel discussion will focus on on socio-economic trends in Singapore, how they impact different sections of society, and how art can be used to spread awareness about these issues. The speakers include:

– Associate Professor Oh Soon-Hwa, School of Art, Design and Media, Nanyang Technological University
– Professor Mohan Dutta, Head of the Department of Communications and New Media, National University of Singapore
– Associate Professor Irene Y.H. Ng, Department of Social Work and Director of Social Service Research Centre, National University of Singapore
– Lin Huiyi, artist and Director of Grail Research
– Stefen Chow, artist and independent photographer

Talk- Culturally Centering Diet among Malays in Singapore: Building a Healthy Heart

NUS Communications and New Media’s CARE initiative is excited to organise the CARE Social Justice Series, showcasing projects that CARE has embarked on. This coming Monday, 3 April 2017, Prof Mohan J Dutta (Director of CARE and Head of NUS Department of Communications and New Media) and Ms Munirah Bashir (CARE Research Assistant) will speak on the topic Culturally Centering Diet among Malays in Singapore: Building a Healthy Heart.

CARE-CNM Research Series by Dr Gary L. Kreps

CARE-CNM is pleased to host Professor Gary L. Kreps for a one-day workshop followed by a research talk on “Translational Communication Scholarship”on the 19th January 17 (9am to 3pm) and 20th January 17 (3-4pm). Translational Communication Inquiry is designed to address important societal issues and improve quality of life. More information on this series can be found in the poster below. Register for this series by clicking on the poster below. Hope to see you there!